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improve our understanding of science. Thermodynamics studies the behavior of
gas under various conditions of temperature and pressure, but the focus is not on
the trajectory of a specific molecule. Rather, the focus is on the entirety of the
structure and dynamics of a complex adaptive system as a whole. Price suggested
that we should apply the same kind of rigorous scientific inquiries and data-driven
investigations to science itself: the volume of the body of scientific knowledge as a
whole, the trajectory of “molecules” over the landscape of science, the way in which
these “molecules” interact with each other, and the political and social properties of
this “gas.”
Today we take “the exponential growth of scientific literature” for granted.
It was Price who pointed out this empirical law. In addition, he identified several
remarkable features and drew a number of powerful conclusions. The empirical law
holds true with high accuracy over long periods of time. The growth is surprisingly
rapid however it is measured. He estimated that, among others, the number of
international telephone calls will be doubled in 5 years, the number of scientific
journals will be doubled in 15 years, and the number of universities will be doubled
in 20 years. He was convinced that it is so far-reaching that it should become the
fundamental law of any analysis of science. Following his “gas” metaphor, he used
the notion of invisible colleges to describe the way in which “molecules” in science
interact with each other. Here is an excerpt from his Little Science , Big Science on
invisible colleges:
We tend now to communicate person to person instead of paper to paper. In the most
active areas we diffuse knowledge through collaboration. Through select groups we seek
prestige and the recognition of ourselves by our peers as approved and worthy collaborating
colleagues. We publish for the small group, forcing the pace as fast as it will go in a process
that will force it harder yet. Only secondarily, with the inertia born of tradition, do we
publish for the world at large (Price 1963 , p. 91).
A popular design metaphor that has been adopted for science mapping is the
notion of an abstract landscape with possible contours to highlight virtual valleys
and peaks. Similar landscape metaphors appeared in many earlier designs of
information visualization. What comes naturally with such metaphors is the notion
of exploration and navigation. Landmarks such as peaks of mountains are used
to attract an explorer's attention. If the shape of the landscape matches to the
salient properties of the system that underlines the landscape, then exploring the
system becomes an intuitive and enjoyable navigation through the landmarks that
can be found effortlessly. Many of the earlier information visualization systems
capitalized on the assumption that the higher probability of an event is to occur,
the more important it is for the user to find the event easily. In contrast, users are
less motivated to visit valleys, or pay attention to events that tend to be associated
with low probabilities. For example, main-stream systems often emphasize high-
frequency topics and highlight prominent authors as opposed to low-frequency
A different but probably equally thought-provoking analog may come from
evolutionary biology. Charles Darwin's natural selection is now a household term
that describes the profound connection between fitness and survival. The notion
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